First Airshow and a beginner. What should I use and tips?

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Smoshier
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Joined: Thu Aug 15, 2019 2:19 pm

First Airshow and a beginner. What should I use and tips?

Post by Smoshier » Thu Aug 15, 2019 2:34 pm

My fiancee and I are attending our first air show this following weekend. He got us photo pit tickets since photography is a hobby of mine and thought I would enjoy taking pictures of the show. I mainly take photos of nature and birds but have been wanting to expand and get experience with different types of photography just to get an idea of how things differ and see if there's something else I may enjoy doing. What I have though is a DSLR, Nikon d3300, and my biggest lens is a quantaray 70-300mm tele-macro lens and I'm unsure if that setup would be okay for a beginner or if i should look into renting a different type of lens for this event. Any tips as well would be appreciated.
Last edited by Smoshier on Thu Aug 15, 2019 2:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Larry I
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Post by Larry I » Thu Aug 15, 2019 7:12 pm

Start by reading this so as to understand what sets good photos apart from great ones. viewtopic.php?f=11&t=99

But keeping that in mind since it's a new adventure for you work your way down to the lower shutter speeds as you get the hang of it. Pan with the plane & try to be very smooth. Some suggest trying to keep a specific AF spot on something easy to see like the cockpit or an emblem etc. Be sure to set your camera to Servo AF & not to one shot when photographing moving targets. A longer lens would be helpful but there is a learning curve to using it due to more magnification & the extra weight. Read the other threads here for more opinions & advice too.
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Smoshier
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Post by Smoshier » Thu Aug 15, 2019 8:29 pm

Thank you I appreciate it. I will do what I can to get practice in with panning as it's a technique I haven't done before. Seems simple but I do have a hard time not shaking so much.
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Larry I
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Post by Larry I » Thu Aug 15, 2019 9:07 pm

I'm old & panning is my greatest asset now. Panning smoothly is much easier for me that taking stills. I can barely hold a long lens well enough to shoot at any slower shutter speed even with image stabilization.
Also be sure you understand Exposure Compensation & how to change it quickly. Having a lot of sky in your photos can fool the built in light meter & it's important to expose for the plane rather than the general scene, especially if you're shooting into the sun, even on a dull day.
Without knowing your skill set this may also be helpful even though I wrote it for model aircraft photography but everything still applies except the shutter speeds. https://www.rccanada.ca/rccforum/showth ... p?t=147971
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Smoshier
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Post by Smoshier » Thu Aug 15, 2019 10:02 pm

I did stills for a little bit to try and get used to the camera and the settings. I just started messing with shutter speed and aperture settings a couple months ago to get some shots of waterscapes and birds in flight. My fiancee actually works near an airport and you can see some of the jets taking off or in air from the parking lot. do you recommend that I try to pan and get used to changing settings that way since I have that small opportunity?
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Larry I
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Post by Larry I » Thu Aug 15, 2019 11:14 pm

You can practice panning at the side of a busy road or anywhere things go by at a bit of speed. You can even do it where bicycles get driven a lot. You just need to get the hang of trying to keep the moving target in place in your viewfinder. The slower your shutter speed the more important that is but with high shutter speeds it's a bit less important but you need to do it. Also note that when you are panning & have the shutter button half pressed (or back button for the AF fully pressed) the camera is using an algorithm to calculate where the target is going and at what rate based on what it has already tracked it through.
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RyanS
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Post by RyanS » Fri Aug 16, 2019 2:04 am

Smoshier wrote:
Thu Aug 15, 2019 10:02 pm
I did stills for a little bit to try and get used to the camera and the settings. I just started messing with shutter speed and aperture settings a couple months ago to get some shots of waterscapes and birds in flight. My fiancee actually works near an airport and you can see some of the jets taking off or in air from the parking lot. do you recommend that I try to pan and get used to changing settings that way since I have that small opportunity?
First, your gear is fine. Almost everyone starts with a comparable SLR body and a 70-300mm lens! We've all been there and it's a good place to start.

Any practice is good; panning is critical in any sort of action photography. Airplanes are a lot like shooting birds, but generally more smooth and predictable.

Unfortunately there's really no substitute for the muscle memory of using your camera and being able to track a fast moving object through a zoomed in lens. That can only come with practice!

Try practicing by just following something around with the camera, not shooting photos at all. Use it like a set of binoculars and you'll get the hang of it. Even with a perfect panning technique, know that you'll be losing about 90% of your photos; it just happens. Fortunately, most aircraft do straight side to side passes before flying too far away to shoot, so you just need to pan for a short bit of time. Cars on a highway would be a good example.

If you want to play it safe for the first go around, just set up AV (or A mode on Nikon) mode and use the fastest shutter speed possible on everything, including props. If the photos are just for yourself, you'll likely be happy. It's slowing the shutter speed down for propellers that really makes things tricky and you can certainly choose to avoid that if you want to make sure you get some pics!

Add in other details like exposure compensation (personally I don't find it particularly important and I never adjust it during a show), metering (center-weighted average is all you need, especially if you are working on panning), and lower shutter speed as you get more comfortable and see what your photos look like.

I expect you will learn quite quickly during the show, so be sure to keep checking your photos out on the screen (be warned that they ALWAYS look better on the screen than they will on a PC!!!) and since you are surrounded by other photographers in the pit, don't be afraid to ask for help.

Final tip is to shoot RAW if you have the ability to edit the files. Editing is at least 50% of the shot and RAW makes so much more possible in all forms of photography.
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Ryan Sundheimer
www.AirshowStuff.com

Smoshier
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Post by Smoshier » Fri Aug 16, 2019 4:26 pm

RyanS wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 2:04 am
Smoshier wrote:
Thu Aug 15, 2019 10:02 pm
I did stills for a little bit to try and get used to the camera and the settings. I just started messing with shutter speed and aperture settings a couple months ago to get some shots of waterscapes and birds in flight. My fiancee actually works near an airport and you can see some of the jets taking off or in air from the parking lot. do you recommend that I try to pan and get used to changing settings that way since I have that small opportunity?
First, your gear is fine. Almost everyone starts with a comparable SLR body and a 70-300mm lens! We've all been there and it's a good place to start.

Any practice is good; panning is critical in any sort of action photography. Airplanes are a lot like shooting birds, but generally more smooth and predictable.

Unfortunately there's really no substitute for the muscle memory of using your camera and being able to track a fast moving object through a zoomed in lens. That can only come with practice!

Try practicing by just following something around with the camera, not shooting photos at all. Use it like a set of binoculars and you'll get the hang of it. Even with a perfect panning technique, know that you'll be losing about 90% of your photos; it just happens. Fortunately, most aircraft do straight side to side passes before flying too far away to shoot, so you just need to pan for a short bit of time. Cars on a highway would be a good example.

If you want to play it safe for the first go around, just set up AV (or A mode on Nikon) mode and use the fastest shutter speed possible on everything, including props. If the photos are just for yourself, you'll likely be happy. It's slowing the shutter speed down for propellers that really makes things tricky and you can certainly choose to avoid that if you want to make sure you get some pics!

Add in other details like exposure compensation (personally I don't find it particularly important and I never adjust it during a show), metering (center-weighted average is all you need, especially if you are working on panning), and lower shutter speed as you get more comfortable and see what your photos look like.

I expect you will learn quite quickly during the show, so be sure to keep checking your photos out on the screen (be warned that they ALWAYS look better on the screen than they will on a PC!!!) and since you are surrounded by other photographers in the pit, don't be afraid to ask for help.

Final tip is to shoot RAW if you have the ability to edit the files. Editing is at least 50% of the shot and RAW makes so much more possible in all forms of photography.
Thank you I really appreciate your post! I will definitely take all that into consideration as well. I was contemplating on renting a 200-500mm lens for a week to get used to it since I have been considering on buying a bigger lens for a couple months now. I started back in high school, didnt have time for it for about 3-4 years afterwards, then got back into it in 2017. I finally upgraded to a dslr the beginning of this year and started shooting RAW. I personally don't like JPEG now that I've experienced the difference in shooting and editing. The pictures are for myself but I do want to have one nice shot for my fiancee since aviation is a hobby/passion that he has and I want to give it to him as a sign of appreciation.
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Larry I
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Post by Larry I » Sun Aug 18, 2019 2:28 am

As you can see we have different opinions on what works which shouldn't be a surprise. I use Exposure Compensation heavily but if you shoot RAW it's less important than if you only shoot jpg's. I shoot both & because I try to edit & have an event album on line by Tuesday right after the event I rely on the jpg's more than the RAW files BUT in challenging light I edit & use the RAW files. You try suggested methods & settle on what works for you plus create a streamlined work flow.
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wfooshee
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Post by wfooshee » Mon Aug 26, 2019 4:21 pm

My own advice would be to shoot shutter-priority automatic, setting the shutter speed that you want, or fully manual, setting both shutter and aperture. Going fully manual would assume no lighting change through the segments of the show, i.e. no sudden cloud shadows dropping the light level. Pick something in the distance, meter it with spot-metering and note the aperture picked for your shutter, then set that into the camera on manual. If that's more than you want to tackle, that's fine, but shoot shutter-priority auto-exposure. You do NOT want your camera deciding the shutter speed! BTW, the note above about A mode is incorrect. A is aperture-priority, where the camera sets the shutter. You want S to set your own shutter speed and let the camera set aperture, or M to set both yourself.

The reason I suggest fully manual is the meter may be looking at sky, it may be looking at aircraft. It doesn't know, it just picks exposure for the light it sees, and you'll end up with some frames sharply underexposed if you let the camera meter every shot. If you shoot RAW, you can compensate in post, though. I'll repeat my meter-something-distant settings check between acts to keep it right during the day.

Shoot the slowest shutter you can get away with on propeller aircraft. You're looking to blur the prop, not freeze it. That's where your panning practice ahead of time comes in. On jets, go to 1/2000th or even faster to ensure sharp freeze and no motion blur. If fully manual, don't forget to adjust aperture to match.

Finally, focusing. the D3300 only has 11 focus points, so it doesn't cover the viewfinder very well. If you're not centered on the aircraft, the camera may well try to hunt its focus. I know when I upgraded years ago from a D5000 (11 points) to a D7000, the 39-point system made a HUGE difference in the responsiveness of the autofocus system. Consider turning autofocus off, focusing ahead of time on something out toward the middle of the field and leaving the focus there.
Last edited by wfooshee on Mon Aug 26, 2019 4:25 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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